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GEORGINA VOTES: New municipal council needs to 'mirror the constituents it represents'
Oct. 17, 2022

The number of female candidates running for office increased by about 160 per cent in Georgina since the 2018 municipal election.

In 2018, only five of the 12 municipal candidates in Georgina were female.

This time, 52 per cent -- 13 -- of Georgina’s 25 candidates are female, inching closer to gender parity in municipal politics.

Gender parity is described as 40 to 60 per cent representation.

And there is at least one woman running for each council seat from mayor to ward councillor and school board trustee.

Both Georgina regional councillor candidates -- Naomi Davidson and Dawn Zimmermann -- are women.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Sandra Hanmer, project manager for the Georgina Community Action Table program.

“The more we can do to support women who are interested and willing to put their name forward to be councillors and be involved is great.”

And this is great news for many women in the community.

“As a woman in the community who runs a business and makes a great effort to lead by example, I am very supportive of other women who choose to be leaders and active members of our great community,” said Melissa Sedore, owner of Dental Hygiene on Demand in Keswick.

“It’s nice to see women step up and put themselves out there and be passionate about change in our community,” said Sandra Hutchings of Hutchings Farm in Pefferlaw.

“This is a true representation of our community … May the best candidate win.”

Voters need to do their homework, read candidate platforms and make an informed decision, she added.

Both Sedore and Hutchings were speakers at the Georgina Chamber of Commerce’s women in business conference hosted last month.

Gender equity at the local council level has been a long-standing issue in the province, said Zachary Spicer, York University associate professor for the School of Policy of Public Policy and Administration.

“A lot of the household labour still tends to fall on women and that’s a challenge,” he said.

The average age of a municipal councillor across Ontario is 61. And about 75 per cent of municipal councillors are men, Spicer said.

Along with needing more women in elected roles, there is a need for younger people and people from more diverse backgrounds on council, he added.

Town council needs to “mirror the constituents it represents,” agreed Georgina Chamber of Commerce executive director Jennifer Anderson.

“Whether it's gender, age or having aligned demographics, council needs to understand firsthand the community’s needs and wants,” she said.

“A diverse council will bring unique opinions and experiences to the table.”

Georgina has the highest proportion of female candidates in all of York Region -- followed by East Gwillimbury with about 50 per cent and Richmond Hill with about 42 per cent.

Whitchurch-Stouffville has the lowest -- 19 per cent of candidates are women.

“We should continue to move forward with this,” Hanmer said. “It’s a terrific indicator for our community.”

But there is an imbalance between the number of female councillor and mayoral candidates, Spicer said.

“There is a bit of a pipeline from councillor to mayor,” Spicer said.

If you’re not building that pipeline at the councillor level, there will be fewer women to choose from who run for mayor, he added.

Last term, incumbent Mayor Margaret Quirk was one of two female mayors at regional council and one of three total females at the regional table.

Currently, there are only six female mayoral candidates across York Region, compared to 26 male mayoral candidates.

Female representation is a little better at federal and provincial levels because of political parties, Spicer said.

“Parties are much more aware of gender diversity and much more conscious of gender balance,” he said. Through the nomination process of candidates, they are often looking to even out the gender balance within their candidates, he said.

Without political parties in the municipal system, it has a limiting effect on attracting female candidates, Spicer said.